How many 12 oz cans of beer are in a keg?

This is a common question for people buying kegs for parties or events. The answer depends on the size of the keg, as kegs come in different volumes. The most common keg sizes are 1/2 barrel and 1/4 barrel. Let’s take a closer look at how many 12 oz cans fit in each of these keg sizes.

1/2 Barrel Keg

A 1/2 barrel keg holds 15.5 gallons of beer. To determine how many 12 oz cans that equals:

  • There are 128 oz in a gallon
  • So in 15.5 gallons there are 128 * 15.5 = 1,984 oz
  • Since each can holds 12 oz, there are 1,984 / 12 = 165 cans in a 1/2 barrel keg

So a standard full size 1/2 barrel keg can hold 165 cans of 12 oz beer.

1/4 Barrel Keg

A 1/4 barrel keg is half the size of a full keg. It holds 7.75 gallons of beer. Doing the same math:

  • 7.75 gallons x 128 oz per gallon = 992 oz
  • 992 oz / 12 oz per can = 82 cans

So a smaller 1/4 barrel keg contains 82 cans of 12 oz beer. That’s still a good amount for a smaller gathering!

Other Keg Sizes

There are some other less common keg sizes to be aware of:

Keg Size Gallons Cans of 12 oz Beer
Sixth barrel 5.23 gallons 55 cans
Cornelius keg 5 gallons 53 cans
Slim quarter 4.88 gallons 51 cans

So if you see a sixth barrel or cornelius keg advertised, you can expect around 55 and 53 cans respectively. Slim quarter kegs contain approximately 51 cans.

Factors That Can Reduce Capacity

It’s important to note that the actual number of cans that fit in a keg may be a bit less than the capacities listed above. Here are some factors that can reduce the usable space in a keg:

  • Foam – The carbonation in beer takes up space as foam, lowering the liquid volume.
  • Settling – Contents may settle during shipping and storage.
  • Keg shape – Conical bottom takes up some internal space.
  • Tubing – Dispensing tubing displace some volume.

For example, a 1/2 barrel keg may only realistically hold around 150 cans instead of the 165 cans it could theoretically fit. It’s a good idea to estimate on the conservative side when purchasing a keg.

How Many Beers Per Person?

When trying to determine what size keg to get, a common question is how many beers on average a person will drink. This can vary a lot depending on the type of party or event. Here are some general beer consumption guidelines:

  • Casual backyard party – 3-4 beers per person
  • Game day or tailgating – 4-6 beers per person
  • Beer focused events – 6-8+ beers per person

For a casual party with friends where beer is not the main focus, planning for 3-4 beers per person is a safe bet. For sports games and other beer-centric occasions, you may want to plan for more like 5-6 beers per guest. Serious beer drinking events like tastings and brewery tours can go as high as 8 or more beers consumed per person.

With an estimate of beer consumption per guest, you can multiply by the number of people and then divide by the cans per keg to determine how many kegs you need. Always round up when estimating to make sure you have enough.

Cost of Kegs

Kegs can represent a cost-effective way to provide beer at a party, compared to purchasing individual cans or bottles. Here’s an overview of the typical cost for common keg sizes:

Keg Size Typical Cost Range
Half barrel (15.5 gal) $100 – $200
Quarter barrel (7.75 gal) $60 – $125
Sixth barrel (5.23 gal) $40 – $85

Keep in mind draft only craft brews will be more expensive. Mainstream beers like Bud Light are often at the lower end of these ranges. The per beer cost for kegs tends to be $1 or less, compared to $1.50 – $2.00+ for individual cans or bottles. Buying in bulk via kegs saves a significant amount.

Be aware many suppliers require a deposit on the keg itself, which you get back when you return it. Deposits range from $30-$75 typically. Some also have a delivery fee if you don’t pick it up yourself.

Consider Renting Draft Equipment

Before ordering a keg, think about how you plan to serve the beer. Tapping a keg requires some specialized equipment:

  • CO2 tank – To pressurize and push beer out of the keg
  • Regulator – Controls proper pressure from CO2 tank to keg
  • Coupler – Attaches keg to tap and tubing
  • Faucet – For dispensing with tap handle
  • Tubing – Carries beer from keg to faucet

For a one-time event like a party, it’s often easier and cheaper to rent a draft beer system rather than buying all the pieces. Many beer and beverage distributors offer equipment rentals that include the CO2 tank, regulator, tubing, tap, and other hardware needed to tap a keg. Rental rates are around $50-$100 per keg setup.

Consider Kegged Cocktails

Kegs aren’t just for beer! Many bartending services and beverage companies now offer kegs of pre-made cocktails. This allows you to offer mixed drinks on tap. Kegged cocktails often consist of a spirit, mixer, and flavorings. Some popular options are margaritas, sangria, mojitos, and mimosas. A keg of cocktails typically provides around 120-130 servings.

This can be a fun and convenient way to offer a variety of drinks besides just beer. Prices are comparable to beer kegs – $100-$200 depending on size and contents. The same draft dispensing equipment is used.

Homebrew Kegs

Homebrewers also utilize corny kegs to store and dispense their homemade beers. These are smaller 5 gallon kegs. The same calculations apply when figuring out capacity – there are about 53 cans worth of beer in a 5 gallon keg. Corny kegs are pressurized with CO2 just like full size kegs.

Many homebrewers love kegging their beers. It allows them to store it long term compared to bottling, and enables easy pouring via home tap systems. Kegging takes more equipment and expense than bottling, but provides a more professional drinking experience.

Keg Size Regulations

There are some legal regulations around keg sizes and deposits in many states. For example, some states prohibit sixth barrel kegs or require a minimum deposit amount. This helps reduce underage drinking and alcohol abuse with very small kegs. Always check your local liquor laws before purchasing a keg.

Use a Keg Calculator

To take the math out of figuring keg capacities, you can use an online keg calculator tool. Simply input the keg size, and it will tell you how many ounces, cans, bottles, cups, or other units it contains. Here are some helpful keg calculators:

These make it easy to see the ideal keg size for any event based on your beer consumption estimates. No math required!

Key Takeaways

To summarize the answer to “how many beers in a keg?”:

  • Full size 1/2 barrel keg = 165 cans (15.5 gallons)
  • Quarter barrel keg = 82 cans (7.75 gallons)
  • Always estimate on the conservative side
  • Factor in foam, settling, and tubing displacement
  • Plan for 3-6 beers per person depending on the party type
  • Kegs provide bulk beer at $1 or less per can/bottle
  • Renting draft equipment is easiest for one-time use
  • Use a keg calculator to determine the perfect size

Armed with this knowledge, you can pick the perfect keg size for any event! Cheers!

Leave a Comment